Autobiographies and memoirs consist of both truth and deception: they may purport to be a first-person factual account but also invariably constitute a fiction (or series of fictions) of identity. The genre of autobiography originates in various kinds of self-reflective and historical writing: the spiritual progress or confession, travel narrative, family history, testimonial writing, and disability/illness narratives, among others. As a literary form, it also developed alongside the novel, especially the epistolary novel and other kinds of first-person fictions. In this course we will attend carefully to the ways in which our selected texts: address the relationship between truth and fiction; represent the burden/task/privilege of authorship; use various texts to construct the narrative (e.g., letters, diaries, novels, images, etc.); and represent the self in history: Seattle and Minneapolis in the 1920s, West Africa, the U.S., and Caribbean in the mid-1700s, and Detroit in the 1950s.
Writing-intensive courses at Harvard Extension offer students the opportunity to develop their writing skills in the context of a particular academic discipline, and they all feature common elements. Students will: 1) develop core writing skills, as defined by the instructor, in the discipline of the course; 2) complete multiple writing assignments of varying lengths, at least 2 of which must be revised; 3) produce a minimum of 10-12 pages of writing, exclusive of the required drafts, over the course of the term; 4) meet at least once in individual conference (in person, by phone, or electronically) with the instructor to discuss writing in progress; 5) and receive detailed feedback on their drafts and revisions, on both content and expression.